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Mifan Mommy December 2009 Update

Written by Kay on . Posted in Mifan Mommy Updates

dec2009mifanmommyprojectBelow please find the December report from our China volunteer, Julie. Thank you, American Mifan Mommies for all you do!

Short Report on the Anhui trip (Q&A)
From TLC
1. Who went ?
Angelina Chen (TLC staff), 2 TLC volunteers: Wang Chun Li and Lin Gui Jing

2 when was trip?
December 11-December 13, 2009

3. What was the purpose of the trip?
To make contact with the orphanage, hang out with the people, and make sure the Christmas gifts were delivered and handed out.

There was reports of possible snow, so the plan was changed, we decided to go by train, instead of hiring a van. Because of that,there were cancelations on some of the participants of the trip.

The trip allowed us to be here all day Saturday, meeting people and hanging out. We asked questions about the orphanage, the acting director, Guan and his wife, were very helpful in answering them. We were really touched by the way we were welcomed and received. We stayed at the guest room, the only room in the compound that had heat.

Among the things we got to do were games, pictures, good conversations, etc. Angelina got to teach some English songs to the kids. The 2 TLC volunteers wanted to see about getting the money for purchasing 2 dryers for the small children and patients.

The semi truck with the gifts arrived at about 7:45am on Sunday, the whole place was filled with excitement as gifts were being passed out to the individuals. There were also other donations like crocs shoes and other items. The directors and the staff really appreciate them.

*to those of you who wonder what the Mifan Mommy project is, we are a group of online contributors who give a small monthly donation to support a non-governmental orphanage in Anhui. The orphanage was started by an elderly Chinese man who converted his abandoned manufacturing facility into a home for the unwanted. They do not receive government assistance but instead rely on the generosity of those who have heard his story. But he is the true hero in the story, as he opened his heart to receive those who had no where else to go. For our part as the Mifan Mommies, donations of $9 a month are given to help buy rice, as we found out that one bag of rice to feed the whole institute is only $9, yet for many years the residents only received rice on special occasions. Now they get it all the time!

Silent Tears Encore Edition available for Pre-Order!

Written by Kay on . Posted in A Bratt's Life, Orphanage Flashbacks

stnewcoverSilent Tears 2nd Edition is available for pre-order on Amazon right now. For one month only, the price is discounted 45% to a meager $8.22! This is the same story but with some updates, especially about Xiao Gou, you won’t believe what she has been up to. I’ve also added a section to the back titled, “Letters to Kay” that includes some amazing letters from adoptive parents. It is a poignant, beautiful cover and my intention was for this edition to be a sort of collector’s book. It will also make a wonderful Mother’s Day gift so send a hint. [Actually, if you want Kay Bratt to send your loved one an email request telling him/her that you would love to have a copy of this book, email me their information at kaybratt70@hotmail.com and I’ll get right on it!]

Here is the link but the discount price is only supposed to last for the first month, so hurrry!

Update: The offer for Hardcover is expired, only softcover available for now.

Ho Ho Humbug

Written by Kay on . Posted in Short Story

xiao-gou-blocks2Here we are two months and over 40 unpacked boxes later, settling in to our new home in Georgia. This is the first time in my moving career (lol) that I have not had every box unpacked and the whole house in order within 2-3 days. Is it my age? I am almost (*dread*) 40, so I would think I still had some get-up-and-go but I really think it has got-up-and-gone because I don’t feel that need to keep moving every waking minute like I used to. Perhaps my OCD tendencies have relaxed much more than I thought. The long assignment overseas was better than any medication might have been—I can’t even imagine how Howie Mandel would have reacted to the conditions I faced every day. He and I share many of the same hang-ups. But I had to learn to face my fears or choose to hide away for almost five years. These days I can even touch a shopping cart with my bare hands and only feel slightly nauseated. I still don’t want to open public doors without using my shirt or scarf but hey—there is swine flu out there stalking me! Good thing I still have operational hips because reaching that flush handle with my foot in public bathrooms can get tricky.

Anyway, moving on…

Unpacking all of our things and sorting through keep/donate/garage sale items has brought up many memories. I found the box of blocks that Xiao Gou used to sit at our table and play with so intently. She doodled all over the wooden container and her tiny scribbling always makes me sad. I also found her blanket and the sweet, pink dress she liked to wear while she was at our home for visits. I never let her take it with her back to the orphanage because I knew it would disappear forever. I used to get so upset about things I gave her being taken away, especially the clothes. She loved clothes and hated it so much the way they dressed her so poorly. At my home her favorite activity was a bath and then the ‘girl stuff’ that goes with it; doing her hair, moisturizing with lotion, etc… such an easy way to make her smile. I’ll never forget when I brought a few bags of new clothes to her sleeping room and the ayi’s face when she discovered that all of the pants had been professionally altered to accommodate Xiao Gou’s amputated leg. She knew no one but Xiao Gou would benefit from the cute pants and warm thermal underwear. Xiao Gou knew it, too. She was smart and quickly figured out that no one would be taking those items. You may not know but when you have a missing limb it makes it even harder to dress in layers. She used to have a heck of a time tucking her long underwear into her pants and then the extra pants’ legs into her waistband so that it all stayed out of her way as she hopped or crawled around. My memories of her are so vivid, even after over two years of not holding her warm little body or seeing her ornery face.

I’ve finally set up my desk so that I could get some work done, or at least attempt to. Over it is my favorite painting I had commissioned in China. It is three small Asian boys holding food pots, squatting in the blinding sunlight. I love the painting—though I did cheat and had a Chinese artist copy it from a famous Burmese artist’s original that I definitely couldn’t afford. Is that illegal? Oops.

On my desk top, I have placed five framed pictures that inspire me. One is my eldest daughter and my grandson. The other four are pictures of children I loved in China, all of them now adopted to loving families; Yue Hua, Le Ci, Le Men, Li Li (with Amanda) and of course one picture is me with Xiao Gou’s arm wrapped around my neck as she plants a sweet kiss on my cheek. That one is hard to look at but I won’t put it away. It reminds me she is still there waiting. There are so many children who have touched my life and made me who I am today; I could cover an entire wall with pictures of them!

So yes, I am feeling a little melancholy. Perhaps it is a combination of unpacking memories combined with the holiday season, I don’t know. Christmas is always tough in my family as there are so many divorces involved and that makes scheduling events extraordinarily hard. It was actually easier when we lived in China and did not have to try to sort out the schedules and hurt feelings, we could just stay in our home and call everyone to wish them a Merry Christmas. But then I was short one daughter and that was always a heart-breaker, too.

We humans make a mess out of life, don’t we? I hope your Christmas season is merry and you are working through your own holiday blues.

Ho Ho Humbug,
Kay.

So You Want to be A Child Advocate?

Written by Kay on . Posted in How You Can Help A Child

Many of you have expressed to me that you’d like to reach out and help a child but for some reason adoption or foster care is not right for you at this time. That’s okay! There are so many ways to be a child advocate other than bringing a child into your home. Here are some ideas to share with you:

o Serving as a foster care respite provider–give a foster couple a weekend alone with no children, or host the foster child(ren) for the holidays.
o Serving on a citizen’s review panel in your county
o Participating in Secret Santa and other events–sponsor foster children for Christmas!
o Operating a clothing closet or food pantry
o Sharing information about foster parenting at your place of work or worship, and other areas of the community
o Becoming a Court-Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) I knew a woman in China who when she lived in the states was a CASA and she loved it! She said it was the most rewarding years of her life.
Contact your local DFCS office if you are interested in volunteering for any of these activities.

You can also coordinate projects in your neighborhood, church, school or mom’s club. Here are a few that I have done over the years. (I always like to name my project because people like to be a part of something that sounds official!)

Zip Up A Smile
My friend, Candee and I coordinated this project in China for the local children’s hospital as well as here in the states for a local children’s shelter. Put together gallon-sized Ziploc bags with snacks, toothbrush/paste, shampoo, soap, small toys or books. Punch ribbons through the top and pass out to children in need. We gathered enough for the staff of the children’s shelter to hand out for one year of admissions, and it was wonderful to know that on that child’s arrival to a scary place, they’d be handed a small bag of cheer. It is so easy and fun to coordinate!

Zip Up the Warmth
This was a project I coordinated through my company to gather coats for children in one low-income apartment complex. We worked with a non-profit organization that was familiar with the kids, got index cards with each child’s name, gender and size. Each child received a new coat and a backpack the week before Thanksgiving.

Operation China Warm-Up
Gather sweaters for children in an orphanage and send overseas. You can even be the drop-off and then locate a non-profit who will ship the goods for you.

Don’t just wait for someone else to step up—the children of the world are the responsibility of everyone. Reach out and you will be the one who is blessed! If you do any of these, please write me and send me details so I can share and inspire others with your story!

Operation China Warm-Up

Written by Kay on . Posted in How You Can Help A Child

baby-sweaterMost of us do not have to worry about our children staying warm this winter. However, now that the temps are beginning to drop, my mind is constantly straying back to those many winter days I spent walking through the rows of babies in the orphanage– babies who were dressed in three layers of clothes and then strapped down in their cribs with no ability to move, roll over or work the numb muscles. Sound sad? Yes– it does but it is true. One need I remember having each year was for warm sweaters for the infants, toddlers and other children.

If you would like to pick up a sweater or two and mail it to me, I will be sending off a box of sweaters to two orphanages. I cannot say which, as one was the orphanage I wrote about in Silent Tears; A Journey of Hope in a Chinese Orphanage. You may not know exactly where it is located but I can promise you that the children will benefit from your gift of warmth.

Please only send sweaters with buttons or zippers, as these are the most convenient for the orphanage ayis to use. Size 6 month and larger needed. You can email me at kaybratt70@hotmail.com for the address to mail your donation to.

Lucy; Chapter Two

Written by Kay on . Posted in A Chinese Perspective;Lucy

lucy3Lucy takes on more questions from readers of Silent Tears:

1. What is the reality for a family that has a cleft palate baby? [Baby born with a hole in its mouth] I am sure I know the answer but would like to know what Lucy’s perspective is. My daughter was kept by her family for about a month. Lucy I know you have a difficult road right now but your son will cherish his life. Only you could give him that.” {Lucy, I think what she is asking is if a couple has a child who is born with a cleft lip or cleft palate, are they able to care for that child? So many children who have this disability are abandoned and later adopted.}

I think most families, if they can afford, are willing to spend time and money on their kids for curing cleft lip or cleft palate. Most abandon cases happened when the parents are not educated and only want sons (this still happens in rural village now). They abandon kids if they have sth like cleft lip or if its a baby girl. Also, another important reason is that, with one-child policy, most parents of course want a good and healthy kid. This is a cruel fact that if they dont abandon their unhealthy ones, they can NOT have the second child.

2. I adopted 2 daughters from china. Ask Lucy why The Birth moms don’t put a Birth date & name for their child on their child? Just wondering, I have heard that some Birth moms do this in china but never personally met them THANK YOU so much! {Lucy, when children are found abandoned, most have no information with them. It would be such a gift for the child to later know their REAL name and REAL birthdates, why do you think most children are found with no identification?}

Ah, this is very easy to explain, according to Chinese laws and regulations, its a crime to abandon kids and parents will go to jail if its proved that they abandoned their kids. Thats why most kids are found without any identification.

3. My daughter is HepB+, was she most likely abandoned because she was female, or could it have had something to do with this? Also, how do the Chinese view children with HepB? I was told it was kind of taboo…..Thanks! {Lucy, she means that many children who have tested positive for Hepatitis B are abandoned. Do you understand why the Chinese are so afraid of this and why they would abandon their children for having it? How are adults and children in China who have HepB treated? Or is it hidden?}

HepB? Ever since the baby was born, the hospital will inject vaccination for HepB and BCG to the baby and give parents a handbook of time schedule for different vaccinations that needed after. Its compulsary and the handbook is needed for kindgarden and schools. One month after birth, my son has received the second vaccination for HepB. However, this only happens in cities. In rural areas, its a bit different as parents dont pay high attention to these stuff.

Your daughter was abandoned mostly because shes a girl. Trust me, only after giving birth to a son, i realised whats the BIG difference between a baby girl and baby boy. People love sons and they think its a such a prime to have a son (even for my parents). Gender is much more important than other things. Anyway in your case, my instinctive is that the parents dont care HepB but most likely abandon her because she is a girl.

Hep B was not a taboo, one of my friends have this and we are still friends. But she didnt tell her boyfriend she had Hep B when they married. Now they had a daughter. Not sure whether it can be transferred to next generation as I heard it can be stopped through some vaccination at pregnancy. But generally, people who have Hep B are hiding it, and if found out, they can not go to school, maybe will lose their jobs as well because its contagious, thats why we are so afraid of it. With Vaccination, i hope there will be less and less stories like this….

4. My daughter was about 6 weeks old when she was abandoned…why would a birth family wait so long before abandoning a child? And how do they then explain the missing child after so much time? Thanks to Lucy for sharing her story and taking our questions!! {Lucy, she means that for us, keeping a child for a few days, weeks, or months would seem to make it impossible to later give them up. Many children were abandoned at the age of weeks or months (sometimes years). Why would a family keep the child that long and THEN later give them up or abandon them?}

Its NOT an easy choice for any family to abandon their kids as we are all humans and maybe have the same feelings for our sons and daughters.To abandon their own kids, it must come from a hard way. Also, its not easy to abandon kids as you have to do it in a way that police will not come and jail you. I dont know how they report and explain the missing child as in China, theres a part of people who can not be controlled by police as they move from one city to another city and this part of people, i believe, are the parents of most abandoned kids

In closing on this chapter from Lucy, I want us all to take even deeper notice of one sentence she writes, as I think many times we cannot fathom abandonment and lose sight of this sentiment: Its NOT an easy choice for any family to abandon their kids as we are all humans and maybe have the same feelings for our sons and daughters. To abandon their own kids, it must come from a hard way.

Lucy; Chapter One

Written by Kay on . Posted in A Chinese Perspective;Lucy

Lucy is my friend who I knew while in China and she has just recently had a son. Because she knows my passion to learn about the culture of China and the issues of abandonment, etc., she has agreed to be interviewed by me. She has also agreed to answer any questions YOU may have! Post them as comments and I’ll email them to her. Her answers are not changed in any way, she has very good English and has worked as a translator/tutor to the foreigners, which is how I met her. Not only is she very intelligent, but she has a big heart and is a great friend.

1. What is your son’s name?
Pei Yuan

2. When was he born?
Born in Sep, 2009.

3. Are you married? How old are you?
From legal way, yes, married. Ritually no. Registered married because in China, if you are not married, your baby is not allowed to be registered, which means he/she can NOT go to kindgarden, school…Of course, there are certain babies who are not registered here. Still, marriage is a VERY Hard choice for me.Im 25 years old now.

4. If you are not married, was it a hard choice to have your son? Did you ever consider abortion or abandoning him?
I had the baby before marriage(shame), and decided to keep the baby. Yes it was a very HARD choice. My family was very disappointed and asked me to take abortion. However, from the high education i received, im a pro-life and think abortion is the same as murder (Heheh;-)). So naturally me and my boyfriend registered marriage on 18th, July, 2009 and baby was born 2 months after.

5. How will you take care of him? Will he stay with an ayi?
My mother comes to Shanghai and take care of us now. Ayi is popular here to new mothers whose parents cant stay with them. I feel very lucky that my mother is here and look after me and my son physically and spiritually.

6. Will you work?
Yes. I was still working even on the day before the birth of my son, and go to work again after one month. I am supposed to have 4.5 months maternity leave but go to work so early because my job is too busy.

7. What is your plan to provide for him and his future?
He will be brought up as a normal Chinese, heheh. I will try my best to provide the best education for him.

8. Being a young pregnant woman, did you feel disappointment from elders in your life?
VERY MUCH and i felt guilty to my parents even now. They had very high expectation on my marriage and it turned out to be a mess at all. I dont know how to make it up to them. Now my son is 40 days and hes cuter and cuter. Looking at him, all the pain and tears i had are worthwhile.

Stay tuned for more chapters on Lucy and how she is dealing with life as a young mother in China.

Finding Treasures

Written by Kay on . Posted in A Bratt's Life

On Monday, Ben took the day off to finalize our house sale, arrange for utility hookups and other tedious details of the upcoming moving day. We took Amanda to school and once the morning tasks were completed, we had several hours before our closing appointment. Determined to get as much done as possible, we drove to the bordering town to check out a recommended consignment store. Arriving at our destination, I was dismayed to see that they were closed on Mondays. I was on a mission to find two comfortable reading chairs and had heard they may have just what I wanted, but my itch to decorate a house I didn’t yet have would have to wait.

As I walked back to the car, I spotted a used wicker chaise across the street in front of a seemingly dilapidated building. I asked Ben to pull in and am so glad I did. The shop was actually an antique store and was fairly large with many different pieces of furniture and small trinkets. I’ll admit, I am not the type who enjoys browsing or buying antiques, but in this unique shop I found two treasures I would otherwise have missed.

As Ben precariously made his way around the packed shop to examine an original confederate soldier uniform, I discovered an amazing mahogany mirror back behind a 1940 sewing machine and tucked underneath an ancient dining table. My daughter’s room is being decorated using Asian accents and the mirror had the familiar shape of many pieces we had seen on our trips to Thailand. Pulling out my Chinese bartering skills, I negotiated the price to $28 and I tried not to show my glee at obtaining such a great deal.

The woman at the register, Ruth—she told us to call her—reminded me of much thinner Aunt Bee from Mayberry. She flitted around the counter just as nimble as an elf and her smile at making a sale could have warmed any cold heart. Close to the counter an older man with white hair and a kind face sat perched on a barstool and observed our transaction while listening closely to all of our bantering back and forth. I almost felt like I was tossed back in time and their laid back way of life in the small community was a jolt to my too-fast-multi-tasking-stressed personality.

As I carried on a dialogue with her, I was weighing the pros and cons of their lifestyle compared to mine and concluding that they had the better deal. Peace, quiet and a slower pace was exactly what I have been dreaming of and they experienced it every day.

Ruth began to tell us of an upcoming antique show scheduled for the next weekend. Thank goodness I actually had other plans and did not have to make up an excuse, but instead told her of the adoption conference I would be attending in Tennessee that weekend. The quiet man suddenly stood up and asked, “Do you have you adopted children?”

“No, I am an advocate for orphans but I have not adopted any children.” I explained to him about my years in China working in the orphanage and how I now try to raise awareness about institutional care.

As I talked, he seemed about to burst to tell me something and when I finished my explanation, he said, “My wife and I adopted two daughters from Korea.”

That statement started a very interesting conversation. He informed me he was one of— possibly the first— to adopt internationally. He adopted his first daughter in 1976 and his second in 1980. He said both adoptions only cost a total of $1000, but that was before the agencies discovered they could get rich from it, he added.

I asked him how his daughters were now and I explained to him that I rarely have a chance to talk to an adopted parent with grown children—and that it was fascinating to me. He said they adjusted wonderfully and one was now an accountant and the other worked in the communications field. They grew up in Ohio and later the entire family moved to the South and that is where both girls are now living with their own families, all located very close together.

Our conversation flowed easily and I found myself wishing we could stay and talk for hours—I had so many unspoken questions; Did they go through an agency? Was it complicated? What was the wait time? What about the process was different? Did they travel over and see their daughters’ first? Did the girls still observe their heritage? So much was swirling around in my head but it was time for us to head to our last appointment and I also didn’t want to infringe on his privacy by asking questions that may be too personal. I gave the proud father my card and asked him to give it to his wife so that she might contact me and possibly build a friendship that would allow me to know more about their story.

We left the shop and as we loaded my first discovered treasure into the car, I looked up and saw the second unexpected treasure who was watching me through the window. Who would have thought I would have been gifted with such a rare encounter in a quaint antique shop located in a tiny southern town…